Paraguay’s New Leader Overthrows Military/Police Establishment; Orders Soldiers to Serve the Poor

August 23rd, 2008 - by admin

Associated Press & Richard Gott / The Guardian – 2008-08-23 01:06:46

Paraguay’s New President Is Replacing Most of the Country’s Top Military Leaders
The Associated Press

(August 21, 2008) — Presidential spokesman Augusto Dos Santos says newly inaugurated President Fernando Lugo has signed 30 decrees naming new heads of the impoverished country’s army, air force and navy.

The decrees do not specify if the changes are due to corruption or misconduct.

On Tuesday, Lugo replaced the nation’s police commander.
The left-leaning leader pledged last week to reform the nation’s military, saying soldiers would now perform humanitarian tasks for the poor.

In a speech, Lugo said the military will “never again … be used to repress or harass” the people.

His inauguration ends more than six decades of one-party rule.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press

Lugo: Paraguay’s New Broom?
The country’s new president takes office
at a time of economic and political optimism
for much of South America

Richard Gott / The Guardian

LONDON (August 22 2008) — The leftist winds of change blowing strongly through South America in the 21st century arrived this month in Paraguay, where the latest member of the extraordinary coalition assembled over the past 10 years by Hugo Chávez of Venezuela assumed office in Asunción.

President Fernando Lugo, a former radical bishop well-versed in liberation theology, who won an election in April with the support of a hastily-assembled Alliance for Change, is the new hope of the left, joining Chávez, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador in a fresh alliance of political leaders putting social and economic reform at the top of the agenda.

Lugo’s victory marked a significant moment in the history of Paraguay, defeating a corrupt and exhausted Colorado party that had ruled the country for more than six decades, most of the time under the leadership of a military dictator.

On the morning after his inauguration, Lugo travelled with Chávez to the northern town of San Pedro where he was once the bishop, and received from the hands of the Venezuelan president a replica of the sword of Simón Bolívar, a symbolic act that welcomed the new recruit into the radical band of “Bolívarian” brothers that Chávez has created.

Chávez’s ambitions had been confined heretofore to the Andean countries once liberated by Bolívar from Spanish rule at the beginning of the 19th century, but this new friendship with Paraguay is a historical first. In his southward march from Venezuela, Bolívar never got beyond Bolivia, and indeed was a sworn enemy of Paraguay’s founding father, the ascetic lawyer José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia.

After a week in office, Lugo has left no one in any doubt where he stands. Like Correa in Ecuador, he sees no further use for the tutelage of the International Monetary Fund, preferring the advice of the US economist Joseph Stiglitz who has suggested that a 10% tax on beef and soya exports would do wonders for the country’s low tax base. The wealthy landowners would complain, as they have done in neighbouring Argentina, but they are unlikely to risk alienating Lugo’s support among the rural poor so early in his presidency.

Another bastion of the old conservative order is the legal system, where root and branch reform is expected imminently. Lugo has already begun clearing the decks with the military and the police, traditionally the arbiters of Paraguay’s political affairs.

He has put a definitive end to the “period of transition” that has constrained the country’s democratic practice since the downfall of General Alfredo Stroessner, nearly 20 years ago in 1989, and brought in an entirely fresh high command.

A purge of the diplomatic service will follow, with the removal of an entire generation of ambassadorial placemen. The appointment as foreign minister of Alejandro Hamed, a leftist historian who has been the ambassador in Beirut, has already alarmed Israel and the United States.

The Israelis have a supporter in the vice-president, Federico Franco of the Liberal party, but Franco does not form part of Lugo’s inner group of political advisers. This is a matter of some irritation to Franco, since Lugo’s electoral victory was won in part with the support of the powerful Liberal machine.

In his inaugural speech, Lugo called for an unusual combination of austerity and happiness. He had already renounced his presidential salary, and he called upon young people to embark on the task of reconstructing the country with a smile.

He invoked the great political leaders of Paraguay in the 19th century like Francia and the López family, but, in the presence of President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, whose father was a member of the government of Salvador Allende, he quoted Allende’s last words on the morning of his overthrow in September 1973.

Allende had famously expressed the hope that “much sooner than later the great avenues will re-open along which free men will pass to build a better society”. Lugo echoed these words with the thought that the avenues would be “covered not with asphalt but with the dreams of the founders of the Patria Grande (the great fatherland of Latin America)”.

Lugo also invoked the writers and poets of the 20th century. These of course included Augusto Roa Bastos, the country’s most famous novelist; Elvio Romero, a popular communist poet who died in exile in Buenos Aires, and Rafael Barrett, an Anglo-Spanish journalist who made Paraguay his home and wrote from an anarchist perspective about its social life and the conditions of slavery that existed in the countryside.

(Typically, the British government has closed its embassy in Asunción and could only afford to send its ambassador in Argentina to Lugo’s inauguration. Spain sent their crown prince.)

Lugo has received the almost unprecedented support of the Latin American media, perhaps because he is seen to deserve the respect accorded to a former bishop and perhaps too because it is hoped that he will prove more moderate than seems likely to be the case.

“This is a victory for the Latin American revolution,” said Chávez in Asunción, but Ecuador’s Correa warned that Lugo’s international reception might not be so delirious once his reforms begin to bite.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Paraguay Indigenous Exempt from Bus Fares
Prensa Latina

ASUNCION (August 19, 2008) — Uruguayan President Fernando Lugo appreciated the gesture of over a dozen transportation businesspeople, who decided to exempt indigenous people from paying bus fares.

This stand is the seed to construct the country we deserve by taking into account the people who have always been neglected in Paraguay, said the president.

Head of the National Transportation Department, David Yinde, said his institution will coordinate and organize actions directly with the National Institute of the Indigenous People, led by Margarita Mbywangi.

One of the 17 representatives of the transportation business said the project is part of policies of the new government to benefit the native population.

The initiative will allow free travel of indigenous people in buses from the interior to Asuncion.

Bush Paraguayan Estate at Risk?
Ari’s Freedom Switch Blog

(August 22, 2008) — Internet sources cited President George W. Bush’s purchase of a huge estate in Paraguay. It sits atop one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the world. If “water is the new oil,” George W.’s relations stand to profit handsomely. However, democracy could put a kink in the plan.

The people of Paraguay shed 61 years of right wing rule, electing Fernando Lugo, a center left candidate. Their new President is a former Catholic Bishop. He was sworn in August 15th and immediately went to work.

He appointed new leaders for the national police and military. President Lugo promised soldiers would carry out humanitarian tasks for the poor and “never again … be used to repress or harass” people.

One of his first political appointments was an indigenous tribal leader. She identified indigenous land rights as a priority, as well as protecting forests.

How might new Paraguayan leadership respond to the Bush family’s plans, especially if they involve taking the people’s resources, water, timber, etc.? Don’t tell me another regime change is in order…

Posted by PEU Report/State of the Division at 10:07 AM

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.